Friday 20 July 2018

Did North Korean leader visit Beijing to put summit plans in train?

Northern Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Getty Images
Northern Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: Getty Images

Christopher Bodeen

A mysterious armoured train made a round trip from North Korea to Beijing without revealing its secret: Was Kim Jong-un on board?

Speculation about a visit to Beijing by North Korea's leader or another high-level Pyongyang official ran high yesterday amid talk of preparations for a meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

The visit by the train to Beijing and unusually heavy security at a guesthouse where prominent North Koreans have stayed seemed to point to the possibility that Kim was making his first visit to China as North Korean leader.

Such a trip would be seen as a potential precursor to Kim's planned summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April and his anticipated meeting with Trump by May. Analysts, however, questioned whether Kim would make the visit to Beijing himself rather than send an envoy.

The train leaving Beijing. Photo: Reuters
The train leaving Beijing. Photo: Reuters

Whoever was on the train, their visit to Beijing appeared to be short. A vehicle convoy led by a motorcycle escort yesterday headed in the direction of Beijing's main railway station. The train was seen leaving shortly afterwards, less than a day after it arrived.

While there has been no word of a meeting with Chinese leaders, China has been one of North Korea's key allies, even though relations have chilled recently because of Kim's development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

On Monday, heavy security was reported at the Friendship Bridge on the Yalu River marking the border between China and North Korea before a train passed through the Chinese city of Dandong. There were reports of it transiting several stations on the way from North Korea to Beijing.

Japanese broadcaster NTV reported the train appeared very similar to the one Kim's father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, took to Beijing in 2011.

Irish Independent

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